Bury St Edmunds 7
East Grinstead 18
Bury St Edmunds were brought back down to earth as they lost their grip on the top of the table following an 18-7 defeat to East Grinstead.
The hosts were aiming to head into a scheduled break by extending their advantage as league leaders with an eighth successive win but it was not to be as a physically dominant Grinstead powered their way to victory to improve their own title challenge.
Director of Rugby Gavin Hogg was left to concede the opposition deserved their victory, in what was Bury’s first home defeat of the campaign, but remained confident his side will recover from the setback and renew their quest for glory when they return to action away at Chichester on December 6.
“We have to give them credit, they outmuscled us all over the pitch and did a job on us,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we didn’t perform as well as previous weeks but all credit to Grinstead, they are a very good side and proved it.
“I think they have one of the best squads on paper and we knew it was going to be tough.
“They have a lot of experienced players and that was probably the key, we looked panicked early on.
“We know you don’t win or lose the league in the middle of November, so we now have to hit the ground running again after the break.
“The good thing is everyone has to play each other again and so we will remember how much we are hurting now and make up for that later in the season.
“We have to string another run together now and I’m confident we can do that.”
Despite losing Andrew Grant early on to a head injury, which left the second row visibly shaken, the visitors recovered quickly to take the lead in the fifth minute courtesy of the impressive Scott Meakin’s 40-yard penalty attempt.
Against the run of play, Bury had the opportunity to draw level in the 13th minute as an offside infringement gifted them a penalty from right of the posts from 25-yards. However, Michael Sage could not take advantage, screwing his kick across the posts and wide of the left upright.
The visitors got back into the ascendency and were soon rewarded as Meakin’s boot proved reliable once again, converting another simple penalty to extend the lead to 6-0.
However, their task was soon made harder as they were reduced to 14-men following Adam Clayton’s yellow card after 31 minutes.
And with the man advantage Bury were quick to capitalise as a period of pressure saw the ball eventually worked from right to left to Greg White to bundle over. Sage successfully added the conversion to put the home side ahead.
With the half drawing to a close, Meakin was unfortunate not to add to his personal tally further, narrowly missing a 45-yard penalty as the hosts held a slender advantage at the interval.
However that was soon to change after Bury’s Connor Adams was sinbinned shortly after the restart and a prolonged period of pressure on the hosts’ line resulted in Mike Denbee forcing his way over.
Meakin converted the simple extras to see the visitors 13-7 ahead.
The hosts’ frustrations were clear to see as Tanimo Samoa was also sin binned after 52 minutes but with Adams returning to action Bury were able to withstand strong pressure and keep Grinstead at bay.
With the game finely poised in challenging conditions, both sides spurned penalty opportunities through Sage and Meakin respectively before with five minutes remaining the visitors struck the decisive blow.
Their clear strength advantage was evident again as they overpowered Bury in the scrum allowing Ollie Neilson to force his way over to the right of the posts.
Meakin could only strike the upright with his conversion attempt but it would not prove pivotal as Grinstead held on to secure the win.